Most of the time I write a series of individual endorsements and then a summary the night before the election. Often I run short of time to cover every race in as much detail as I'd like. Early voters looking for some guidance have expressed their frustration with this situation.

So this time I'm starting with a list and will fill in with details as I'm able. These endorsements come in two categories: Candidates I am supporting because I know them personally (in the case of challengers or candidates for open seats) or because I've seen their record in office (in the case of incumbents) are highlighted in italics. There are other candidates for whom I would vote, but I don't know them well, and they don't have a track record. These are in normal text.

U. S. House, District 1: Jim Bridenstine
U. S. House, District 2: Jarrin Jackson
U. S. House, District 4: James Taylor

State Senate District 25: Joe Newhouse
State Senate District 33: Nathan Dahm
State Senate District 39: Amanda Teegarden
State Senate District 45: Kyle Loveless
State House District 67: Scott McEachin
State House District 70: Ken Walker

Tulsa County Clerk: Michael Willis
Tulsa County Sheriff: Luke Sherman
Tulsa County Court Clerk: Undecided
Tulsa County Commissioner, District 2: Josh Turley

City endorsements will be in a separate, later entry.

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, and House Speaker Jeff Hickman have announced a budget agreement. Under the plan, total appropriations for the 2016-2017 fiscal year (FY17) will be $6,778,186,009, down about 1% from the revised FY16 appropriation of $6,845,994,842, and down about 5% from the original FY16 appropriation of $7,138,920,573.

The State Department of Education, which supplements local funding for K-12 education, saw a slight increase of 0.62% over last year's revised appropriation. The proposed FY17 appropriation is $2.426 billion.

Many agencies took a 7% cut for FY16, a response to the revenue failure declared mid-year, and many of those took a further 5% cut, for a compounded reduction of 11.65% from the original FY16 appropriation to the proposed FY17 appropriation.

Keep in mind that these numbers represent appropriations out of the general fund and do not include earmarked funds. For example, the Insurance Commissioner's office will have a $0 appropriation for FY17, but it will be funded by earmarked revenues relating to its regulatory responsibilities.

John Tidwell, director of Americans for Prosperity Oklahoma, said that the outcome, though not ideal, met AFP's two principal aims for this session -- no Obamacare Medicaid expansion, no tax rate increases:

OKLAHOMA CITY -- AFP Oklahoma applauded the announcement by state officials today that a budget agreement had been reached to fill the state's $1.3 billion budget hole, with no plans for expansion of Medicaid through investment in Obamacare or through tax rate increases."

"We are extremely pleased that the House, Senate, and the Governor were able to come together and reach an agreement to resolve our budget shortfall without raising tax rates and without expanding Medicaid through Obamacare," said AFP State Director John Tidwell. "AFP conducted an outreach initiative to hundreds of thousands of citizens across the state to oppose the OHCA's "Rebalancing" plan to expand Medicaid, through volunteer grassroots efforts, as well radio, digital, and print media. As a result, thousands of Oklahomans reached out to their elected officials through letters, emails, and phone calls, to let them know that they opposed Obamacare's Medicaid expansion and the tax increases proposed to pay for it."

The Oklahoma Health Care Authority proposed a plan earlier this year, the Medicaid Rebalancing Act, to expand Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act. A House bill containing the plan was assigned to a conference committee earlier this month to be weighed by legislators, but was not heard. A cigarette tax increase was proposed to fund the "Rebalancing" plan, but failed on the floor of the state House of Representatives.

"While in a tough budgeting year like this one, it is certain that no one got everything they wanted. But our organization is very satisfied that the agreement achieved our two biggest objectives: no tax rate increases and no Medicaid expansion." said Tidwell. "AFP has led the fight against Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma and in states across the country, since the passage of Obamacare. We are pleased to have stood with a strong coalition of organizations in opposition to Medicaid expansion here in the state and to ultimately get this important policy victory from state legislators."

After the jump, you'll find the press release from the Governor's Office.

RESOURCES:

Oklahoma FY17 budget agreement summary (PDF)
Excel spreadsheet showing the FY17 budget agreement by agency.

On Friday, March 20, 2016, 1170 KFAQ hosted a debate between the two most prominent of the five candidates for Tulsa mayor: Incumbent Mayor Dewey F. Bartlett, Jr., and City Councilor G. T. Bynum, IV. KFAQ morning host Pat Campbell moderated the hour-long, uninterrupted debate.

If you'd prefer to listen, here's a link to audio of the KFAQ 2016 mayoral debate.

If you'd prefer to read, here's a partial transcript of the KFAQ 2016 mayoral debate, with more to come.

I've only had time to read the transcript. It has not budged my earlier conclusion: Feh. Bartlett makes the bizarre claim that putting the city's checkbook online (a open-records practice to encourage financial accountability, common across the nation) would expose the city to hackers. Bynum bemoans the lack of leadership from Bartlett, but he seems to have passed up the opportunity to rally his fellow councilors to pass many of the measures he says he would champion as mayor (implementing the KPMG recommendations, for example) in favor of raising taxes to build dams in the river and using government force to impose his leftist views of sexuality on Tulsa citizens.

I've been hearing good things about Tom McCay, a first-time candidate, a libertarian in political philosophy with a background in improvisational comedy. He's likely to have my vote in the primary.

This press release from a group of 24 conservative Republican members of the Oklahoma House seems like a common sense solution, so it's hard to understand why all Republicans haven't signed on to it. This group is to be commended for putting taxpayers and teachers ahead of special interests.

Group of lawmakers steps out for a teacher pay raise, while protecting constituents from tax increases

OKLAHOMA CITY - Over 20 members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, representing all four quadrants of the state, stood together today in support of providing a $5,000 pay raise for all classroom public school teachers statewide and protecting hardworking Oklahomans - including teachers - from tax increases.

The estimated cost to give the 42,027 classroom teachers in Oklahoma a $5,000 raise would be $245 million. The House members want the $5,000 pay raise to take effect this August.

Furthermore, the group of House members are vehemently opposed to the statewide ballot measure proposed by University of Oklahoma President David Boren that raises the sales tax on all Oklahomans. The ballot measure, if passed, wouldn't take effect until school year 2017-18, which is 18 months away.

Additionally, estimates suggest the Boren tax plan would increase tax collections over $600 million, with 20% going into the guarded coffers of Higher Education.

State government is facing a major budget shortfall, in large part because of falling oil prices, but Oklahoma families are facing budget shortfalls in their own homes. Over 20,000 Oklahomans have lost their jobs directly because of forced reductions in the state's energy sector.

"The people in every area of state government, us included, have to make hard decisions and prioritize the dollars available just as thousands of Oklahoma families are being forced to tighten their belts," the group said.

The group did, however, emphasize that core services--including Medicaid and common education--can be fully funded while also providing a $5,000 pay raise for all classroom teachers while also avoiding tax increases on hardworking families. "This requires extraordinary fiscal discipline, but we can do it," the group said.

The group of 24 members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives were:

Rep. Scott Biggs - R, Chickasha
Rep. David Brumbaugh - R, Broken Arrow
Rep. Kevin Calvey - R, Oklahoma City
Rep. Bobby Cleveland - R, Slaughterville
Rep. Josh Cockroft - R, Wanette
Rep. Jeff Coody - R, Grandfield
Rep. David Derby - R, Owasso
Rep. Dan Fisher - R, El Reno
Rep. Randy Grau - R, Edmond
Rep. Elise Hall - R, Oklahoma City
Rep. George Faught - R, Muskogee
Rep. John Paul Jordan - R, Yukon
Rep. James Leewright - R, Bristow
Rep. Sally Kern - R, Oklahoma City
Rep. Lewis Moore - R, Arcadia
Rep. Tom Newell - R, Seminole
Rep. Terry O'Donnell - R, Catoosa
Rep. Scooter Park - R, Devol
Rep. John Pfeiffer - R, Orlando
Rep. Michael Rogers - R, Broken Arrow
Rep. Mike Ritze - R, Broken Arrow
Rep. Mike Sanders - R, Kingfisher
Rep. Chuck Strohm - R, Jenks
Rep. Ken Walker - R, Tulsa

From what I gather, legislative leaders and Gov. Fallin are seeking support for an assortment of fee increases and new taxes to close the budget deficit and give teachers a raise, rather than implement the billions in specific budget saving ideas that OCPA and other groups have recommended for years. It's public choice theory in action: Legislators see it as politically safer to increase the tax burden on everyone (diffuse costs) than to eliminate a vocal group's favorite tax credit or program (concentrated benefits). Conservative Republicans won't cooperate with tax hikes on principle; the tiny Democrat minority won't support the tax hikes because it eliminates a campaign issue for the fall.

State Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie (may his tribe increase!), writing about one revenue enhancement under consideration, a tax on services, says implementing a new tax is immoral, because it forces Oklahoma families to work longer hours to support the government.

It's an extremely short sighted move. Everyone loses when government creates new taxes and increases the tax burden on the public.

It's not hyperbolic to suggest that the federal, state and local governments, and their many related entries are now taking half of your income through ever increasing direct taxation, overpriced services, fees and regulation, and the many hidden costs which are passed on to you in some form.

This cost is wreaking havoc upon society.

The cost of government has become major facet in the decline of families. It places tremendous financial stressors upon families, forces both parents to work full time jobs and takes their focus away from their children.

Society is paying a terrible price; and, so is the government. The cost of the education system, human services, public safety and corrections will only continue to skyrocket as family values continue to come under pressure and government does even more harm to the ability of Oklahomans to focus on their families.

Though the tax increases might provide more money to government in the short term; the long term cost will haunt society.

When politicians approve new taxation they contribute to this great immorality.

As I have thought through these matters, I have determined to never be a party to this immorality.

Instead of supporting tax increases I have been convicted of the importance of eliminating the practices within government that continue to waste million of dollars every year.

The enactment of the tax increases will only serve to protect this waste and inefficiency.

It would do us all good to look back at tax rates and budget levels of the past and ponder why government is taking an increasing share of our income for lower levels of public service. When I was a kid, the state sales tax rate was 2%, same as it had been since 1936. Gas tax was 6.58 cents / gallon, unchanged since 1949.1

In 1983, the Democrats then running state government wanted to fix a massive shortfall (due to a downturn in the oil industry) by doubling the state sales tax rate and increasing the gas tax rate by 67%. 2 Early the following year, they succeeded in passing a temporary hike in the state sales tax rate, increasing it from 2 to 3 cents on the dollar. 3 That hike was made permanent, and in June 1987, the rate increased again, from 3.25% to 4%. 4 In May 1990, the state sales tax rate reached its current level of 4.5%. 5 That last hike was part of House Bill 1017, which also included increases in personal and corporate income taxes, and it was supposed to cure our school funding problem for good.

More than nine months after he called a special legislative session to deal with what he called a crisis in Oklahoma education, [Republican Gov. Henry] Bellmon signed into law a sweeping reform bill and $230 million tax package....

"Never again will Oklahoma need to take a back seat in education," Bellmon said to about 300 teachers, lawmakers, parents and students. He called signing the bill "the most pleasurable moment of my political career."

Congratulations and back-slapping preceded and followed the signing, as supporters of the bill celebrated the end of nearly 11 months of battling for reform measures and praised their battle heroes....

Bellmon called the new law a "quantum leap" for Oklahoma education, but said the law itself would not solve the schools' problems without help from educators.

"I challenge our state's educational leaders to use this tool to develop an excellent educational system that will be the envy of our country," he said.6

The "incentives for consolidation" were never effective. Prior to passage of HB 1017, Oklahoma had 609 school districts. 7 This school year, 26 years later, Oklahoma still has 516 districts, including dependent districts like White Oak in Craig County, Gypsy in Creek County, Greasy in Cherokee County, Fanshawe in Le Flore County, Spavinaw in Mayes County, and Straight in Texas County that serve fewer than 10 students per grade.

No legislator should support a tax increase on ordinary Oklahomans as long as the billionaire owners of a basketball team get tax credits for paying millionaire basketball players.

1 Young, Jim. "State's sales tax is lowest among those with levies," The Daily Oklahoman, November 24, 1983, accessed May 19, 2016, http://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/news/0ED06FAD8CAD0A22?p=NewsBank.
2 "AN EDITORIAL Enough Is Enough," The Daily Oklahoman, November 28, 1983, accessed May 19, 2016, http://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/news/0ED06FAE5280DA3A?p=NewsBank.
3 Young, Jim. "New Figures Certified By Equalization Board," The Daily Oklahoman, February 16, 1984, accessed May 19, 2016, http://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/news/0ED06FCE110D964E?p=NewsBank.
4 Legislative Review," The Daily Oklahoman, May 31, 1987, accessed May 19, 2016, http://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/news/0EB42326298DC5FB?p=NewsBank.
5 Greiner, John. "Oil Prices Show Up in State Tax Collections," The Daily Oklahoman, October 10, 1990: 17, accessed May 19, 2016, http://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/news/0EB424E01CDBCB1F?p=NewsBank.
6 Johnson, Kay. "Bellmon Signs $230 Million Education Bill," Tulsa World, April 26, 1990: A1, accessed May 19, 2016, http://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/news/0EB54647A0D717B7?p=NewsBank.
7 STEINERT, GARY. "A major leap for school reform," Tulsa World, November 13, 1990: 7A, accessed May 19, 2016, http://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/news/0EB5469190277837?p=NewsBank.

MORE:

In an earlier entry, Rep. Murphey explained how to go about getting an accurate picture of state finances.

Here is a fact realized by only a few: most state spending never goes through the Legislature's appropriation process. In reality, the Legislature appropriates just forty percent of the $17.5 billion of state spend.

With that in mind, I refer the questioner to the follow resource: Oklahoma Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports, or CAFRs. They provide the most comprehensive resource for understanding all state spending (revenue and debt), because they include the many billions of "non appropriated" state government spend.

Here is a link to the Oklahoma Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports from 1994-2015.

A subdued mood prevailed Saturday as 857 delegates convened at FirstMoore Baptist Church for the 2016 Oklahoma Republican Convention. (The 2012 convention drew approximately 1,400 delegates.)

The state convention in a presidential year has a national focus, electing two members of the Republican National Committee, electing 25 at-large delegates and alternates to the Republican National Convention, nominating two electors (and alternates), considering amendments to permanent state party rules, and voting on a state platform, which will be forwarded to the national convention platform committee for their consideration. Once the state convention adjourns, the newly elected national convention delegates caucus to select a delegation chairman and two members each for the national convention platform, rules, credentials, and permanent organization committees.

The presumptive (and presumptuous) Republican presidential nominee scarcely rated a mention. Donald Trump might as well be called Lord Voldemort -- he who must not be named. In her farewell at the conclusion of the convention, State Chairman Pam Pollard urged the delegates to get involved to help defeat Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Bernie Sanders, but wisely omitted any mention of the candidate who presumably will be the victor if they are defeated.

Trump signs and stickers were not much in evidence. Those displaying support for the egotistical oompa-loompa were few and far between.

My report will necessarily be incomplete. I was part of the check-in team, which processed about 600 delegates in a two-hour period, and then stayed to help with wrap-up as a handful of credentials problems were cleaned up. Tulsa-area software developer David Byte put together a solid, almost fool-proof, credentialing front-end and back-end system. Delegates were never kept waiting for more than 5-10 minutes during rare rush periods. A handful of counties had delegates who were issued badges but hadn't been recorded as checked-in, evidently a user error that could easily be guarded against next time. Because I was working at check-in, I missed all of the political speeches, so I couldn't tell you who spoke or what was said. To be honest, when the check-in system was packed up and loaded, I was tempted to call it a day, hop in my car, and head home. But there was important business to be done. Here's a summary of what happened.

Republican National Committee:

Incumbent Carolyn McLarty was re-elected to a third term as National Committeewoman, defeating Linda Huggard by a 75%-25% vote. McLarty is a leader among conservatives on the RNC, a founding member of the Republican National Conservative Caucus, and serves as chairman of the RNC's Permanent Committee on Resolutions. She was an early and enthusiastic endorser of Ted Cruz.

Steve Curry was elected to succeed retiring National Committeeman Steve Fair, defeating Richard Engle by a 60%-40% vote. Curry is chairman of the Oklahoma State Election Board and a former chairman of the Oklahoma County Republican Party. While Curry could be regarded as more of an establishment type, at least in temperament, than his opponent, many grassroots delegates (including myself) regarded Curry as a more trustworthy guardian of party values during a possible Trumpist dark age. Curry was willing to oppose a Trump nomination for RNC chairman; Engle dismissed the idea. Engle's credibility with party regulars was damaged by his eager participation in the 2012 "parking lot convention" -- an attempt by Ron Paul supporters to delegitimize the state convention that had just adjourned, at which the Paulestinians were defeated by a 60-40 supermajority.

Delegates and alternates:

The slate of 25 at-large delegates and at-large alternates was approved by an overwhelming roll call vote. (Attempts to suspend the rules to approve the slate by acclamation were rebuffed by convention chairman Greg Treat. A roll call vote was not taken in 2012, which Ron Paul supporters used as a pretext to challenge the convention's validity.) For the first time since 2004, no alternative slate was put forward. At the 2008 and 2012 conventions, Ron Paul supporters attempted to defeat the executive committee slate in hopes of electing fellow Paulestinians to the National Convention.

The rules have changed to make alternative slates more difficult to accomplish. The slate must be complete, filled out with people who had submitted paperwork to the state party, and with people who gave their consent to be included. By contrast, North Dakota voted on individual delegates, and the Cruz campaign was able to circulate a slate that included some who were on the executive committee slate and some who were not.

Had the Indiana primary turned out differently, we likely would have seen a concerted effort by the Cruz campaign to nominate a slate of loyalists and to turn out their supporters to defeat the executive committee slate and elect their own. With an open convention no longer seen as a realistic possibility and with the Cruz campaign in shutdown mode, that didn't happen.

The executive committee slate was an assortment of party activists and donors, typical of years past, going to Cleveland to be the studio audience for a week-long infomercial -- except that there did seem to be the sense that the delegates need to be prepared to defend against attempts by the Trump insurgency to water down the platform and the grassroots role in the party. The slate included a few vocal Trump supporters and a few committed Cruz supporters, but many in the delegation had endorsed other candidates in the March 1 primary or were silent.

Party rules:

A number of substantial amendments to the permanent state party rules were considered and were defeated. (A few housekeeping amendments were approved.) Party rule amendments must be proposed by a county convention and then approved by the state committee before going to the state convention for approval. The general sense was that the problems the rules intended to solve were better handled by the judgment of party leaders than additional rules and regulations. (Here are the current Oklahoma Republican Party Rules.)

A couple of the proposed amendments addressed the problems created by Republican popularity. Contested primaries are becoming more frequent, with challengers seeking to unseat incumbent Republicans over policy differences. Should party resources, such as voter databases, be equally available to all candidates seeking the GOP nomination or to none at all until the primary is settled? Former Democrats are changing parties to run for office -- how to distinguish between genuine conversions and conversions for political convenience? Should party officials vet candidates based on their views on the issues, such as commitment to pro-life principles? Here are each of the proposals. Only the housekeeping amendments were approved.

From Cleveland County: Clarifying that state committee meetings may be called for a location other than Oklahoma City.
From Cleveland County: Cleaning up sex-specific language about filling vacancies in party offices. Sex-specific quotas in state party offices were removed several years ago.
From Cleveland County: More cleanup of moot sex-specific language.
From Cleveland County: Removal of sex-specific language regarding executive committee appointments.
From Cleveland County: Clarifying budget committee appointments.
From Cleveland County: Clarifying that the highest-ranking Republican in each house is a member of the executive committee, aligning the rule with actual practice. (The rule previously specified the "floor leader" in each house, which is not the highest-ranking member when the party is in the majority.)
From Muskogee County: Cleaning up sex-specific language in several rules, largely duplicating several of the Cleveland County proposals.
From Tulsa County: Cleaning up sex-specific language in several rules, largely duplicating several of the Cleveland County proposals.
From Wagoner County: Adding several causes for removal specific to the state chairman and vice chairman, relating to involvement in a Republican primary. (Defeated.)
From Cimarron and Kay Counties: Forbidding Oklahoma GOP conventions and meetings from being held in a gun-free zone. (Defeated.)
From Cimarron and Kay Counties: Creating a pro-life committee, made up of one member from each county, to vet candidates for pro-life views prior to providing them with funding or support from the party. (Defeated.)
From Cimarron County: Prohibiting political lobbyists from participating in the Oklahoma Republican Party State Convention Process. (Defeated. It was pointed out that Tony Lauinger, head of Oklahomans for Life and a tireless lobbyist on his own dime for pro-life legislation, would be banned from the convention under the rule.)

Platform:

This year's platform committee was dominated by delegates from Oklahoma County, and it proposed a one-page statement of principles, followed by a handful of specific resolutions. The platform approved in 2015 was 25 pages long, and while many delegates agreed that the platform needs to be cleaned up and pared down, the two-page proposal was a Procrustean solution. A clear statement of principles is a good thing, but grassroots Republicans want to speak as a body on specific issues, as evidenced by the many individual platform planks proposed by precinct caucuses. The 2016 state platform committee seemed to discard all of that passion and hard work. A majority of delegates voted viva voce to postpone the 2016 platform indefinitely, killing the proposal and leaving the 2015 platform in place. The 2015 platform will be forwarded for consideration by the national platform committee.

Delegation meeting:

The at-large and district delegates elected Cruz supporters to both slots on the national platform committee (a job that requires an additional week's stay in Cleveland before the convention), to both slots on the permanent organization committee (which selects the convention chairman, parliamentarian, and secretary and sets the order of business -- normally non-controversial but possibly contentious this year), and to one of the two slots on the rules committee.

Oklahoma's Clear Creek Abbey and the lay community growing around it are featured in a recent story about the "Benedict Option" -- an approach to living faithfully in Christian community as the broader culture transitions from being supportive of and accommodating to Christianity to being hostile and aggressive. The term "Benedict Option" was coined by columnist Rod Dreher, who was inspired by the role Benedictine communities played in preserving civilization through the Middle Ages.


Writer John Burger sets the scene in his essay on Aleteia.org:

For the most part, Christians have had a happy -- some would even say "privileged" -- time of it in America, where Christianity and Christian churches were essentially left alone as they freely exercised their religion within society both privately and, up until recently, in partnership with the government.

Well, that was then, and this is now. The very effective cooperative partnership that existed between the U. S. government and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to serve victims of human trafficking was ended due to the Obama administration's insistence that contraception and abortion be included in any assistance provided to victims. Some cities have seen Catholic adoption services come to an end because they cannot conform to anti-discrimination laws that, in legal suit after suit, are adjudicated against religious freedom.

In general, Christians are firmly being told that if they wish to remain in the public square and involved in social services, parades, or business enterprises of any kind, they will have to sacrifice their values and teachings to the shifting morals of the times and resultant regulations, or be ready to give up their business and abandon their missions.

The time of "privilege" appears to be over. Christians face challenges unimaginable even a decade ago, and must discern new ways of being in a nation that has become hostile to expressions of faith lived outside the sanctuaries and beyond the pews.

A comment on that first paragraph: Christians have had a happy time of it in America because it was founded by our Christian forebears, who came here from Europe in order to have the freedom to live out their Christian faith, not merely to worship behind closed doors, but to order their communities in accordance with the truth of God's Word. Court rulings, starting in the 1960s, turned the prohibition of a Federal establishment of religion into a pretext to chase religious belief out of community institutions at every level of government. Where the stick of court rulings could not reach, the carrot of Federal funds entangled local schools in Federal mandates. Public schools that were once the means of transmitting a community's values to the rising generation were converted to mission stations for secularism, dedicated to alienating children from the ideals that built Western Civilization.

So what to do? The Benedict Option calls for Christians to establish "new forms of community that have as their ends a life of virtue." Dreher quotes Robert Louis Wilken:

At this moment in the Church's history in this country (and in the West more generally) it is less urgent to convince the alternative culture in which we live of the truth of Christ than it is for the Church to tell itself its own story and to nurture its own life, the culture of the city of God, the Christian republic. This is not going to happen without a rebirth of moral and spiritual discipline and a resolute effort on the part of Christians to comprehend and to defend the remnants of Christian culture

The Aleteia story describes the evolution of a community around Clear Creek Abbey:

"Formally speaking, there are no 'primary organizers' of the community that is forming, little by little, around our abbey," Father Anderson said in an interview. "From the beginning, we monks wanted to avoid planning a lay community, allowing, rather, that to happen naturally, organically, if it would."

Father Anderson said that there are 37 households living near the abbey now. [Institute for Excellence in Writing director Andrew] Pudewa and his wife and family have been there since 2009. They always sought out places that fostered a sense of community and had lived in several places around the country and abroad, including some experimental communities.

"When we came to visit it looked like this could meet all of our requisites--a Christian community, rural, a relatively safer part of the country, conservative, and a place where it's easy to grow a business and thrive," he said. "What I would kind of see as our village idea, in a way, isn't to just escape the ugliness of worldliness--because you can't really ever escape that, no matter how far out you go--but it is to cultivate a life of peace and faith and community that can nurture people who may then go out into the world and do things."

What brings everyone together? For Pudewa, it's the abbey, which is clearly the focal point and source of spiritual strength.

"Without the monastery, there would be no reason to be here because this is the land of ticks and chiggers and cottonmouths and copperheads and brutally hot summers and storms and tornadoes," he said. "One thing every family seems to go through is trials and tribulations. You move out here and you will be tested."

Pudewa, founder and director of the Institute for Excellence in Writing, said that a lot of prospective residents are drawn by the abbey's orthodoxy and rigorous adherence to liturgical norms. "There's never going to be anything goofy at the monastery," he said. "The abbot, the hierarchy, the total dedication of the monks to the monastic life and holiness and the Benedictine rule and work and prayer--that's the example that in a lay person's way we wish we could emulate."

The article goes on to describe two other forms that the Benedict Option has taken -- the Anselm Society, an arts-focused community connected with an Anglican parish, and a Washington-based group of Catholics who gather for dinner, prayer, and discussion.

This coming weekend, the monastery and the nearby Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) will host a conference called "The Idea of a Village." Speakers include Rod Dreher, Baylor theology and literature professor Ralph C. Wood, Thomas Aquinas College tutor John F. Nieto, Abbot Philip Anderson, the Father Abbot of Clear Creek, and IEW director Andrew Pudewa. The main thread of the conference is on Saturday, May 21, 2016, at IEW, but there are related activities Friday night and Sunday morning at the Abbey.

From the conference website:

In the time of the collapse of the Roman Empire, Christians gathered around the communities of religious in monasteries of the Benedictine tradition for spiritual succor and stability. Likewise, many of today's Christians, discouraged by the corruption of our own declining empire, desire a similar spiritual support. Some of these families have informally settled around Clear Creek Abbey, a thriving monastery of Benedictine monks, and are, in the words of Abbot Philip Anderson, O.S.B., seeking "to recommence the business of building a just and healthy form of social life, from the ground up." While some have heard of this idea as "the Benedict Option," it might more simply be thought of as the pursuit of sanity in a world gone crazy.

MORE:

A medievalist blogger from San Antonio details a four-day visit to Clear Creek Abbey.

Last year, D. C. Innes wrote a three-part series on the Benedict Option for World magazine.

The Benedict Option has three elements: re-centered Christian identity, attractive community witness, and defensive political engagement. Dreher calls it "a new and concentrated inwardness so that we can strengthen our communal lives and our outward witness and service to the broader culture." His call is to rediscover what should have been our focus all along: the Christ-headed community that sustains us in our precious faith, matures our understanding of it, and enables our consistent practice of it. In this way, Dreher's Benedict Option is both preservative and proclamatory.

Politically, it entails "a strong recalibration on the part of Christians of what is possible through politics in a liberal order." This recalibrated effort nonetheless calls for aggressive defense of religious liberty, e.g., through organizations like Alliance Defending Freedom. In the almost half-century of culture-warring, we left our rear flank exposed. Dreher is calling us to fortify that flank while maintaining a defensive stance on the political front, all while flinging wide open the doors of the city to receive refugees from the Dark Lord's territory.

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Telegraph.co.uk: British Christianity isn't dying. It's sleeping. Evangelism can awaken it

Tim Stanley says that the Christian faith was at a low ebb in the late 18th century.

"Easter Day in St Paul's Cathedral in 1800: can you guess how many people took communion? Six. Six people took communion. In the late 18th century the Church of England was in a dire crisis. Churches stood empty, clerical numbers were dwindling, people complained that priests were out of touch with their congregations. Worse: scepticism was on the rise - even atheism - and Jacobinism, which was violently anti-clerical, was on the march in Europe. Every complaint made about contemporary Christianity was made in 1800. Including the sad decline of Christmas, although the problem back then was one of uninterest. Most public workers just got one day off work. Scrooge was the rule, not the exception....

"Most critical, however, was the rise of evangelism in the 19th century. The Anglicans turned things around by launching missions: they treated Britain as if it was near-pagan and needed to be brought back to the faith. They decided that the faith had to be seen to be relevant to people's needs - so it was the churches that campaigned for workers' protections, the outlawing of child prostitution and the creation of the welfare state. The early Labour Party was dominated by Methodists, many of them obsessed with the evils of alcohol. But the Victorians didn't just pursue social justice for its own sake - as many contemporary liberal Christians do - they saw it as a tool of religious mission. They sought to feed both the belly and the soul....

"Imagine, say, that the Anglican Church was like Tesco. If Tesco stopped advertising, people would stop shopping there. If Tesco constantly banged on about how its own products are old fashioned and in need of updating, people would stop shopping there. If Tesco said that it would be nice if you'd visit once in a while but entirely understood why you don't, people would stop shopping there. Christians have become their own worst enemy - killing their faith with silence.

"Advertise. Speak up. Tell people about your beliefs. At the centre of the faith is the truth that Jesus died and rose from death to herald a new era. The power of the Good News is so great that it cannot fail to win converts. Time to share it."

How Microsoft's tricky new Windows 10 pop-up deceives you into upgrading | PCWorld

They've trained you to click the X to get rid of the upgrade popup, but now, clicking the X means "go ahead and upgrade"!

Meanwhile, Steve Gibson has developed a simple program to allow you to block the Windows 10 upgrade easily and permanently, and also to get rid of the gigabytes of update files Microsoft may have downloaded to your machine. Never10

How Do My Unbaptized Children Relate to the New-Covenant Promises? | Desiring God

"Now, it is just as impossible, therefore, for a paedobaptist parent to be sure that his child is elect as it is for a Baptist parent. Paedobaptists may feel better about themselves by labeling the child a covenant member, but those children have no better standing before God than the children of Baptists....

"1) We view them as gifts of God, blessings of God, to be loved and served (Psalm 127:3).

"2) We view them as responsibilities that we have been given by God to bring up in the teaching and discipline of the Lord. That is, we are to lavish them with the Word of God and with love and with wisdom morning, noon, and night.

"3) We view them as objects of daily mercies in prayer in the hope that God would exercise his saving sovereign grace in their lives.

"4) We view them as little ones before whom God has charged us to rejoice so that they can see what it is like to taste that the Lord is good.

"5) Finally, we view them as little pilgrims in hope on the way to faith, woven into the fabric of relationships in the family and the church. And we have nothing to be ashamed of in this relationship with our children. It is every bit as hopeful for a good outcome of eternal covenant membership as any other way of viewing children."

San Francisco/NorCal Commuter Rail, Crayon Edition | Theodore Ditsek

A fantasy map of commuter rail around the Bay Area, based on actual rail right-of-ways, many of which were in use before World War II as interurban track. Based in part on this composite map showing Bay Area rail service in 1937.

Donald Trump Really Doesn't Want Me to Tell You This, but ... | Vanity Fair

"I spent a long, awkward weekend with Donald Trump in November 1996, an experience I feel confident neither of us would like to repeat.

"He was like one of those characters in an 18th-century comedy meant to embody a particular flavor of human folly. Trump struck me as adolescent, hilariously ostentatious, arbitrary, unkind, profane, dishonest, loudly opinionated, and consistently wrong. He remains the most vain man I have ever met. And he was trying to make a good impression....

"I was prepared to like him as I boarded his black 727 at La Guardia for the flight to Mar-a-Lago, his Florida home--prepared to discover that his over-the-top public persona was a clever pose. That underneath was an ironic wit, an ordinary but clever guy. But no. With Trump, what you see is what you get. His behavior was cringe-worthy. He showed off the gilded interior of his plane--calling me over to inspect a Renoir on its walls, beckoning me to lean in closely to see . . . what? The luminosity of the brush strokes? The masterly use of color? No. The signature. 'Worth $10 million,' he told me. Time after time the stories he told me didn't check out, from Michael Jackson's romantic weekend at Mar-a-Lago with his then wife Lisa Marie Presley (they stayed at opposite ends of the estate) to the rug in one bedroom he said was designed by Walt Disney when he was 18 (it wasn't) to the strength of his marriage to Maples (they would split months later)....

"What was clear was how fast and far one could fall from favor. The trip from 'genius' to 'idiot' was a flash.... I watched as Trump strutted around the beautifully groomed clay tennis courts on his estate, managed by noted tennis pro Anthony Boulle. The courts had been prepped meticulously for a full day of scheduled matches. Trump took exception to the design of the spaces between courts. In particular, he didn't like a small metal box--a pump and cooler for the water fountain alongside--which he thought looked ugly. He first questioned its placement, then crudely disparaged it, then kicked the box, which didn't budge, and then stooped--red-faced and fuming--to tear it loose from its moorings, rupturing a water line and sending a geyser to soak the courts. Boulle looked horrified, a weekend of tennis abruptly drowned. Catching a glimpse of me watching, Trump grimaced."

The meaningless Donald Trump Supreme Court list - The Washington Post

"I think the list is meaningless for that. First, Trump's press release does not commit to choosing from this list. Rather, it states: 'The following list of potential Supreme Court justices is representative of the kind of constitutional principles I value and, as President, I plan to use this list as a guide to nominate our next United States Supreme Court Justices.' So Trump has a 'plan' to use the list as a 'guide.' That's nice, but it's not a commitment to choosing from the list....

"Say what you want about Trump, but he is more than willing to change his mind when new circumstances arise. And actually being elected would count as a changed circumstance. You can imagine President Trump's tweet when he explains why he didn't pick from his list: 'List of 11 was ideal, but had to compromise with Senate. My nephew John Trump is smart. Be a great judge!'

"Finally, if you take the list seriously, it includes a very wide mix of judges. It includes moderates, conservatives and libertarians. It includes those more committed to judicial restraint and those more committed to judicial activism. It includes some distinguished judges and some with less of a national reputation. I assume Trump is counting on conservative and libertarian lawyers to look at the list, see at least one person they like, and decide to support Trump and just hope for the best. But if that happens, I think it will reflect wishful thinking rather than sound judgment."

GALTON AND SIMPSON: GRUMPY OLD MEN? | Culture | The Independent

A 1996 interview with the creators of Hancock's Half-Hour and Steptoe and Son, Ray Galton and Alan Simpson:

"Why do they still appeal to generations born long after they stopped being made? 'Without getting portentous,' Simpson observes, 'the characters we write are not of any particular era. Their attitudes have been around for 2,000 years. It's about people aspiring to better themselves - and that's not just particular to the 1960s. The Hancock character is there in Dickens. People can still identify with these characters, they're recognisable.'...

"Galton, like a well-drilled double-act partner should, takes up the story. 'If there's any secret, it lies in the characters. In those domestic sitcoms, there are no characters, they're all just stereotypes. Ab Fab and Father Ted have wonderful characters - and that's half the battle.'

"'Laughs come from the actions between the characters,' Simpson adds. 'You don't need a joke to get a laugh; things become funny because you know the characters. When we started, people couldn't understand that you could write a half-hour comedy without gags.'"

National Review Online | Print | Ramesh Ponnuru | Who Caused Trump?

"Along with the party's donors, most Republican officials moved in the blink of an eye from thinking that it was unnecessary to act against Trump because it was too early in the primaries to thinking it was futile to act against him because it was too late. A lot of anti-Trump commentary at the start of the race proceeded from the assumption that such an obviously flawed nominee would be unacceptable to the party. But the party's leaders gave its voters no signal that Trump was unacceptable.

"Some of them did worse. Some anti-Trump conservatives have been angry at Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus for urging Republicans to back Trump. But that's the chairman's job; if he can't say that in good conscience about the party's presidential nominee, he should resign. What he didn't have to do was get all the presidential candidates to take a pledge to support the nominee. That pledge was not intended to help Trump, but rather to make it harder for him to run as a third-party candidate if he lost. Its effect was to handicap Trump's rivals, since the strongest arguments against him concern his unfitness for office. The RNC also did what it could to make the primaries more friendly to front-runners; these efforts, too, ended up helping a candidate it didn't expect.

"The media, from the start of the campaign, gave Trump far more coverage than any of the other candidates. (Actually, the media did that from before the start, since they had already made him a celebrity.) He has been good for ratings. But it's the conservative end of the media, from Fox News to many radio talk-show hosts, that really helped him. They did more than give him a hearing: They made endless excuses for him, and they ignored stories that might hurt him."

The amazing 1969 prophecy that racial preferences would cause the exact grievances of protesters today | HeterodoxAcademy.org

Jonathan Haidt calls attention to a 1969 letter from Macklin Fleming, Justice of the California Court of Appeal, to Yale Law School Dean Lewis Pollack, warning that disregarding academic qualifications in favor of racial quotas would would fail to accomplish the noble aim of more underrepresented minorities in the highest levels of the legal profession. Haidt says that Fleming's letter was prophetic, and we see its fulfillment on today's college campuses.

"The immediate damage to the standards of Yale Law School needs no elaboration. But beyond this, it seems to me the admission policy adopted by the Law School faculty will serve to perpetuate the very ideas and prejudices it is designed to combat. If in a given class the great majority of the black students are at the bottom of the class, this factor is bound to instill, unconsciously at least, some sense of intellectual superiority among the white students and some sense of intellectual inferiority among the black students. Such a pairing in the same school of the brightest white students in the country with black students of mediocre academic qualifications is social experiment with loaded dice and a stacked deck. The faculty can talk around the clock about disadvantaged background, and it can excuse inferior performance because of poverty, environment, inadequate cultural tradition, lack of educational opportunity, etc. The fact remains that black and white students will be exposed to each other under circumstances in which demonstrated intellectual superiority rests with the whites.

"No one can be expected to accept an inferior status willingly. The black students, unable to compete on even terms in the study of law, inevitably will seek other means to achieve recognition and self-expression. This is likely to take two forms. First, agitation to change the environment from one in which they are unable to compete to one in which they can. Demands will be made for elimination of competition, reduction in standards of performance, adoption of courses of study which do not require intensive legal analysis, and recognition for academic credit of sociological activities which have only an indirect relationship to legal training. Second, it seems probable that this group will seek personal satisfaction and public recognition by aggressive conduct, which, although ostensibly directed at external injustices and problems, will in fact be primarily motivated by the psychological needs of the members of the group to overcome feelings of inferiority caused by lack of success in their studies. Since the common denominator of the group of students with lower qualifications is one of race this aggressive expression will undoubtedly take the form of racial demands-the employment of faculty on the basis of race, a marking system based on race, the establishment of a black curriculum and a black law journal, an increase in black financial aid, and a rule against expulsion of black students who fail to satisfy minimum academic standards....

"The American creed, one that Yale has proudly espoused, holds that an American should be judged as an individual and not as a member of a group. To me it seems axiomatic that a system which ignores this creed and introduces the factor of race in the selection of students for a professional school is inherently malignant, no matter how high-minded the purpose nor how benign the motives of those making the selection....

"The present policy of admitting students on two bases and thereafter purporting to judge their performance on one basis is a highly explosive sociological experiment almost certain to achieve undesirable results."

Tuppence over the rope

Vagrancy in old England: If you couldn't afford sixpence for a bed in a doss house, you could sleep sitting up, leaning over a rope, for a mere two pennies. At dawn the ropes would be untied to encourage the patrons to move along. References to this practice crop up in literature and pop culture. The practice is depicted in an episode of Hancock's Half-Hour, implying that it still happened in 1957.

Casebook: The Twopenny hangover -- sleeping over a rope

George Orwell, "Down and Out in London and Paris": "This comes a little higher than the Embankment. At the Twopenny Hangover, the lodgers sit in a row on a bench; there is a rope in front of them, and they lean on this as though leaning over a fence. A man, humorously called the valet, cuts the rope at five in the morning."

Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers: "'And pray, Sam, what is the twopenny rope?' inquired Mr. Pickwick. 'The twopenny rope, sir,' replied Mr. Weller, 'is just a cheap lodgin' house, where the beds is twopence a night.' 'What do they call a bed a rope for?' said Mr. Pickwick. 'Bless your innocence, sir, that ain't it,' replied Sam. 'Ven the lady and gen'l'm'n as keeps the hot-el first begun business, they used to make the beds on the floor; but this wouldn't do at no price, 'cos instead o' taking a moderate twopenn'orth o' sleep, the lodgers used to lie there half the day. So now they has two ropes, 'bout six foot apart, and three from the floor, which goes right down the room; and the beds are made of slips of coarse sacking, stretched across 'em.' 'Well,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'Well,' said Mr. Weller, 'the adwantage o' the plan's hobvious. At six o'clock every mornin' they let's go the ropes at one end, and down falls the lodgers. Consequence is, that being thoroughly waked, they get up wery quietly, and walk away!'"

Secret Leeds: Flophouses in Leeds

Includes lyrics to the song "Tuppence on the Rope," lyrics by Paul Graney and tune by Gary and Vera Aspey, from the album Gary and Vera Aspey, From the North Topic LP, 12TS255 [1975]

Note on the record sleeve: "During the depression of the 1930s, thousands of unemployed men were obliged to take to the roads. At this time, attached to every parish workhouse was a casual ward or 'spike' which gave shelter for one night, after which the tramp would have to move on to the next town. In exchange for a meal of cocoa and bread and scrape (margarine), he was expected to work for a few hours. Because of this, he often found there was too little time to reach the next spike and so, unless he slept under a hedge or in a barn, he could try to beg a few coppers to go into a dosshouse and obtain a bed for about sixpence. If he failed to raise this sum, he could sleep on the rope for tuppence or, in some places, a penny. The rope was stretched across the width of the room and a man could hang with his arms over it for support. It was customary to untie the rope in the morning, and the whole row of men would collapse to the ground."

Page 2 includes a description of a "spike" or "vagrant ward" -- you'd get fed, have a bath, have your clothes fumigated, get some sleep out of the weather, then do a few hours work, and then be told to move on to the next town. You couldn't return to the same spike within 30 days.


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